Chapter 149:

Collecting (1)

Mad God

When Ren arrived, an exhausted, lanky, human-looking boy was sitting under the shade of the nearby building next to the gate leading into Thunder Valley. Two little fairies were floating around him, trying to make him drink water and fanning him with big leaves as he was clearly barely able to sit straight.

"He burnt up almost all of his internal energies," Uhure explained, who joined them as soon as Ren arrived with Niji. "He must have been really desperate to reach us as he will die in a few minutes."

"Can't we help him?" Niji asked, furrowing his brows.

"No. The fairies are still trying, but…" Uhure said with a sigh. "You know how they are. They try to help no matter what. But you can't save everybody. The boy's body is breaking down."

"Let me speak to him," Ren said, walking faster, arriving beside the young boy named Floo. "Hey…" She patted his cheeks, looking into his unfocused eyes, holding his hand. She was sending through her energies, stimulating his brain, zapping him a little, right back into reality.

"Help us… please… they’re… killing us…” He gasped for air, trying to see Ren, but what he could see were only blurry silhouettes. He could only hear her voice as if she would speak to him through a thick wall from a different room.

"Who is killing you?" Ren asked while the rest also surrounded him.

"Please, help… us…" He said once again weakly, repeating it again and again.

"No use; he is halfway through the gate of death," Ohore said, shaking her head.

"Sorry, kid." Ren sighed, as she held his head, looking into his eyes. Ren's irises lit up in a violet hue as she invaded his mind, reading it forcefully. It was clearly putting great strain on an already broken, weak body. Floo simply morphed back into demonic lemur form between her fingers. He was groaning as blood started to flow out from every orifice he had. It only took a few seconds, and Ren quickly stopped her powers, still looking into his bloodshot, damaged eyes. "Don't worry. I'll help." She smiled at him.

"T-thank you…" Floo whispered, even smiling a little before the light finally left his eyes, and his body went limp.

"It's a black panther. He is keeping them and multiple other tribes as slaves." Ren explained, looking at the rest. "Give him a proper burial. He didn't know if there were others besides the panther, but I am sure there were. One demon couldn't hold down multiple tribes."

"Are you going?" The owl sisters asked at the same time.

"Of course." Ren nodded calmly, picking out a voice transmission jade. "Ariana, come with Kyu and meet me at the front gate! We are going out."

"Don't you want some of us to follow you?" Niji asked, signaling to the others to bring the boy's body away.

"Don't need to," Ren said, looking at her own fingers, gently playing with a bolt of electricity between them. "Since stepping onto the second stage, I have suppressed the rage inside of me." She whispered as her aura slowly slipped out, making the owl sisters quickly step backward. Feathers appeared on their bodies, standing towards the sky as they looked at her. "I am planning to release some of it now." She smiled, but then she shivered as if a voice whispered something into her ear as she drew back her presence. After taking a deep breath, she simply changed her answer. "No… Please, go and ask Kang to accompany me." She said, with closed eyes, calming down very quickly. "I need someone I can trust completely, so there is no chance of things going south."

"Mmm. Okay." Niji nodded, not asking much, but his senses were clearly telling him that it was best to remain silent for now.


It was a cold night while the two moons showered the forest with their silvery light. In the village of the lemurs, the young ones were huddling together as the adults tried to rest. Yet most of them always woke up to the faintest noise, never having the chance to truly fall asleep.

Ednai was sitting on the roof of the old tavern that was repaired who knows how many times, serving as the main shelter for his people through the cold winters and the rainy days. He was in his human form, holding onto an orange that only missed one bite-sized portion of it.

"You should eat it." The voice of a woman arrived, who climbed up next to him, sitting down beside Ednai. She was taking the orange away and starting to peel it for him. "You thinned down completely, and you barely eat nowadays! You are going to collapse one day."

"I just…" He tried to say something, but she pressed a piece of it into his mouth.

"Ssh! Just eat it." She smiled. She was also a really skinny girl, with big, black bags under her blue eyes. She said nothing more as she just wiped her fingers into her sticky, black hair.

"You also need to eat some… and sleep a little, Keely," Ednai answered after gulping hard, swallowing the small piece of food. Even that required a great effort from him.

“I know… we all need that… I do miss my beauty sleep, you know!" She chuckled, taking a bite for herself, then pressed another piece into his mouth, sharing it with him. "But I can't. Every time I close my eyes, I hear my parents' screams and your father's…"

"Me too…" Ednai whispered. "Every time I bite into something, I see that monster eating Dad alive…" He murmured with a whimper.

"Do you… do you think Floo succeeded?" She asked after a short silence between them.

"Well, they haven't come and killed us all yet. So I am hopeful."

"I hope… I really, really hope it too…" She choked, holding back her tears, and before Ednai could say something, his body trembled.

"Footsteps!" He stood up immediately, listening intently, but he quickly realized that they were different. For first, they could hear them, yet the panther, whenever he came, was silent and noiseless. What they were hearing was heavy and sounded like loud thumping as the foliage rustled around it.

Before long, a human appeared not far from the old roadside inn. It was Ariana, followed by Kyu, who stumbled out from behind her with a long, drawn-out yawn.

"Mmm… I'm tired!" She moaned with barely open eyes.

"Sure!" Ren's voice came immediately. "Back in the valley, you were not so tired! You were already raiding some poor merchant's goods! You're a good-for-nothing troublemaker!" She scolded her playfully, flicking her head. The last one was Kang walking out from the trees, towering above everybody like a giant, white boulder.

"She is young, eating a lot of good health." He said.

"Hey, don't patronize her too much! She is already spoiled by me!" Ren smiled, shaking her head, with Ariana agreeing heavily with a nod.

"Are they… humans?" Keely asked with an afraid, trembling voice, grabbing onto Ednai's arm, watching them from the roof of their home.

"Probably… but that white gorilla… It is Kang, one of the strongest of Thunder Valley! I heard my father tell me about him! They must be from there!" Ednai said with excitement.

"I don't like the aura of that girl, Ednai… please, be careful!" She whispered into his ear, pointing towards Ariana.

"Relax! They are someone we can count on, or they wouldn't have come with the famous Kang!" He said as he quickly hurried down and rushed towards them.

Seeing a man running towards them, Kang immediately stepped forward, shielding Ren behind him, quickly scaring Ednai. He hurriedly stopped in his tracks, almost skidding and falling forward.

"M-my name is Ednai, you… you are from… Thunder Valley?" He asked, gulping loudly, finally coming back to his senses from his excitement.

"Yes," Kang answered, looking down on him. He could snap him only by pinching Ednai's body between his fingers.

"Your friend has reached us," Ren said, walking out from behind Kang.

"He did? Is he okay?" Ednai asked.

"He perished." Ren shook his head, immediately bringing down Ednai's mood. "You should be proud of him! He did what he must to save the rest of you." She said with a serious voice, looking into Ednai's eyes. "Let us go inside. I want to hear what has been going on here from you and the rest."

"S-sure! This way, please!" Ednai bowed, leading the group inside. By now, everybody was up and awake, hearing the commotion outside. The only problem was that the ancient building was not built to accommodate Kang's size. He had to stay outside, sitting down at the door, keeping a lookout for a possible ambush.

"The air is really heavy here," Ariana whispered, looking around, feeling the deep and depressing feelings of the remaining lemurs.

"Can you ease their nerves a little?" Ren asked while they greeted the remaining adults.

"I can try." Her disciple nodded as she covertly tried to release her dark tendrils. They were sneaking out from her feet, snaking towards them on the ground, hidden in the night's darkness and deep shadows. They were attaching themselves to every member of the tribe and consuming their darkest thoughts.

From the lemur's side, nobody noticed anything, and they thought the sudden feeling of relief came solely from the knowledge that help had finally come. Ren patiently listened to their tale and description of the black panther that had terrorized them for years now. How they slowly reached the point where they were no longer able to even leave the old inn, confined inside, between its gray, dilapidated walls.

"How often is he coming around to check upon you?" Ren asked while she was stroking Kyu's head. She was hugging her waist, looking really sleepy, ignoring the blight of the others.

"Every few days," Keely answered. "But they are surely watching because anybody who tried to leave turned up dead the next day. They made sure we knew that they were not coming back..." She said with a lowered head.

"So, they probably know we have come and are already watching us." Ren smiled, scaring the rest of the lemurs. "I hope they do! I'm not in the mood to go searching for them! I'd appreciate it if they would come to me."

Her wish was granted as after just half an hour later, Kang's voice resonated from outside, warning them that he felt dangerous auras approaching.

"You stay inside," Ren said to the lemurs, and then she shook Kyu up playfully. "Wakey-wakey sleepyhead!"

“Mmm… what is it… mom?" She moaned, rubbing her eyes.

"Trouble has arrived, so stay inside with Ariana and protect these people, okay?" She patted her head, looking at her disciple, who just nodded resolutely while Ren walked outside.

To her surprise, the arriving two big cats didn't even try to hide their presence. They were announcing it strongly as a black panther and a leopard walked closer to them. It was Zargon and Dranor. The former immediately noticed Ren's group when they came to this side of the forest, and he called his comrades to quickly join him in fighting off the 'intruders.'

"We heard about you, monkey," Dranor spoke up, watching Kang, who was standing high and tall, letting out deep gurgles from deep inside his throat. "So the rumors are true! You are working with your cousins, huh? Well... monkeys like other monkeys." Dranor snorted, looking at Ren, who was standing beside Kang with a faint smile.

"It's just the two of you?" Ren asked, watching them as Zargon stood up from all fours, morphing into his human form.

"Does it matter?" Zargon asked back. "You are far away from your home. This is not your territory, human."

"I was about to say the same." Ren chuckled, patting Kang's back. "Leave them to me. Protect the others from an ambush. Cats like to pounce from the dark."

"Yes. I do that." Kang nodded, summoning his bones, covering himself fully in smooth, shining armor.

"So, here is how we are going to do this!" Ren stretched calmly, walking closer to them. "You have two options."

"Ahaha, we do? Please, let me hear them!" Zargon laughed sarcastically, followed by Dranor's deep-sounding growls as he also chuckled.

"I'm glad that you are so cooperative!" Ren nodded, crossing her arms and speaking in a happy voice. "Kill yourselves, and you can spare yourself from the pain. Of course, you can choose to resist! I'll still get your cores. Only… It would take a little more time. And more pain."

"Very funny, human," Dranor responded, sounding like a hiss, showing his sharp teeth.

"Here are YOUR options, human," Zargon said. "Kill yourself or be food for us."

"I'm afraid you are not strong enough to bite into me." Ren sighed, shaking her head. "So… should I take this as you, refusing the quick and painless way out?"

"Listen here, you human bit-" Dranor stepped forward, yet he could not finish his words.

What they failed to notice was that the previously clear sky turned completely dark as thick clouds obscured the full moon. It seemed like a storm was brewing, covering the forest in deep darkness. Their senses couldn't pick out the distant noise of thunder as they were focusing completely on Kang and Ren. When Dranor stepped forward, Ren immediately flashed forward and by the next second she was stomping on the leopard's back. Her leg was shining with purple electricity as it made contact. What Zargon could hear was Dranor's spine cracking into two as he crashed into the hard ground, sending chunks of earth everywhere, puking up a fountain of blood.

No matter how hard he tried, he just couldn't move anymore. All feelings were lost from his body as violent electricity coursed through him, destroying every nerve endings as they raced alongside his spine. He wanted to scream or roar, yet nothing came out of his mouth, only empty air, wheezing painfully. By the time Zargon's mind comprehended what was going on, it was too late. Ren just stood between them, her leg still pushing down on the now immobile Dranor.

"As I said." She patted her hands. "It is only going to take a little more time to get what I want." She explained again, looking down on Dranor, completely ignoring the presence of Zargon.

It was at the end of her whisper when Zargon roared loudly, slashing at her with his hands. They were turning into sharp, glittering claws, aiming towards Ren's back. Before they could land from high up in the sky, a lightning bolt struck down between them, blocking Zargon's attack. It was as if nature itself was protecting Ren. Reality itself was not far from this, as someone in the Outer Harmony realm could feel the change in their surroundings. They could instinctively predict any moves their enemies made, even if they just decided it, moving only a single muscle.

The cultivators' inherent affinity was at a stage where it affected nature's forces. It should coexist with it in a symbiotic relation, resulting in the cultivator's spells acting in sync with nature. If they reached the 2nd stage naturally. The road Ren took was done by those who were stuck at the 1st stage. They only did so out of desperation. Or because they were obsessed with control. Control over everything. It was not a symbiotic relationship but a forceful and dominant act where the cultivator took control over nature's forces. A lot of times, if the person tried to use it more and more, way above his proficiency or strength, nature itself would revolt. Sooner or later, this way of cultivation results in a strong, unavoidable backlash. Ren learned about this from Aerthus after she first regained consciousness. When the cultivator realizes this by herself or himself, it will propel them into the 2nd stage peacefully.

This is why reaching Outer Harmony had no tribulation for those who achieved it naturally. They were able to say that they reached harmony with nature. Yet those who took the more forceful approach had to survive nature's wrath. A terrible tribulation. If they managed to do that, they could command great powers, but it came at a high price. They were no longer in harmony… And nature can not be subdued for long. Some even called them Disharmony Cultivators as it went against everything the road of cultivation represented.

Throughout the times, Harmony experts appeared again and again as the realm was established. Very few people appeared who took the forceful approach. The reason was because 9 out of 10 perished in the tribulation. Those who succeeded, sooner or later, found themselves killed by their own powers. They got stronger and stronger but were unable to control it in the end. It was thought to be a dead end. Only managing to gain a short few centuries, with a majestic strength, before the inevitable demise of the cultivator by his or her own powers. This was believed until one individual broke the mold and reached Perfect Harmony. Someone who went by the name of Zelig. Nobody knows how he did it as he never told anyone, but since then, it was evident that… It can be done.

Right now, Ren wasn't thinking about nature's possible wrath for using its powers without consent. She was completely focused on the immobile leopard under her feet while Zargon desperately tried to attack her. Yet every time he moved, lightning struck towards him, forcing Zargon further and further away.

"Now look at you… Are you a masochist?" Ren smiled, crouching down, stroking Dranor's head. "You should've taken the easy way out!" She whispered as her hands, with every stroke, took off layers of skin from his head.

Dranor wanted to scream and shout for help, searching for Zargon with terrified eyes, yet he couldn't move his head or force any voice out of his throat. Ren's fingers effortlessly scalped his skull while her nails carved into it like a hot knife into butter. She finally killed Dranor by removing the top of his head and getting his brain scrambled up as Ren reached inside, searching for his demonic core.

Zargon watched on with horror, trembling and unable to comprehend what he was seeing. He was a battle-hardened veteran. He fought against the wolves up north and oversaw the raidings of multiple villages. He was part of bloody battles where bodies, guts, and limbs were scattered all over the snowy fields. He was used to the savagery of how they fought, but it was the first time for him to see a human act like this. She effortlessly and calmly killed one of his own and mutilated his body. And he couldn't intervene. What he heard next even shook his soul.

"Too bad that you are not human… I could test out something with your soul…" She mumbled as she stood up, wiping her bloody hands into her dress, pocketing the demonic core. After that, she was looking at Zargon with emotionless, calm eyes, making him almost fall as he took hurried steps backward. He was turning into a big, black panther, hissing like a scared cat.

A moment later, they heard the rustling of leaves as someone hurriedly left, rushing away quickly. Ren immediately knew it was a third big cat, who, until now, was waiting in the shadows to strike at them.

"Follow her." She said as Kang just nodded, jumping up, grabbing onto a tree branch, propelling himself forward, chasing the fleeing leopard, known as Meyka. "You sent her away." Ren continued, watching Zargon's eyes. "Wise decision. But a futile one. I am going to catch her too and extract her demonic core, just as I am going to take yours right now." She explained with an even voice, walking towards Zargon with her hands behind her back. Up in the dark sky, lightning was flashing constantly, and it started to rain so heavily it felt like flooding.

"Demon…" Zargon growled, backing into a tree and breathing heavily.

"Maybe." Ren nodded. "Others usually called me mad. In the end, it somehow stuck with me. It seems I can't change that, even after reincarnation." She tilted her head, still watching Zargon. "So… do you wish to experience what your friend did, or do you take my offer and kill yourself?" She asked as she leaned forward with a faint smile.

"I have a son… If you spare him-"

"How many times did you hear that?" Ren cut in, asking with a friendly voice. "How many others begged you the same way you are begging me now?"


"I am waiting. Please… answer me." She asked again, now without a smile, and her voice was ice cold.

In the end, Zargon realized there was nothing he could do. His instincts even failed to tell him to run or fight. He just gave up completely, accepting whatever was coming to him. He only heard tales about the strength of humans, thinking they were nothing but the same as low-level, unintelligent demons. Nothing more but a bit smarter than animals, relying on numbers only. Some may have great strength, but nothing that could compare to their demonic origins! Their natural advantages are being stronger, faster, and even… smarter. Now, it turned out, he was wrong… but he had hope. I hope that Meyka can quickly grab his son and escape. Find Tylvana, reporting everything that happened here and that the famous General is going to avenge their death. This last thought of his gave him the final push and mental release as he dispersed his own life force, falling to the ground, already dead by the time his head reached it.

The lemurs, who had the stomach to watch, were horrified, especially after Ren started to scalp Zargon's skull, taking his demonic core and pocketing it. What scared them the most was Kyu, who licked her lips, now finally completely awake, and shouted out to Ren.

"Mom, can I eat them?"

"Sure." Her answer came as she stood up, letting the rain wash down the blood from her body. "Keep an eye out." She looked at Ariana, who was calmly observing everything her Master did. Hearing her order, she just cupped her hands. "I'll go after Kang," Ren said and left in a blinding flash, accompanied by a resounding thunder. It sounded like a mythical dragon itself, chasing after its prey.